Family Fully Alive Articles


 

Catholics at Home and Work

Connecticut family brings faith to all aspects of life

By Gerald Korson

Seeking to integrate Catholicism into their daily lives, Peter and Leslie Wolfgang have grown to embrace their faith as they collaborate both in the workplace and in raising their growing family of seven children.

Peter is executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), a nonprofit, pro-family advocacy group, and Leslie oversees the organization’s social media efforts while homeschooling their children, who are all named after American saints.

Yet when Peter and Leslie first met years ago as students at the University of Connecticut School of Law, they seemed an unlikely pair. He was a “dissenting” but pro-life Catholic; she was a “pro-choice” and “happy atheist,” as she describes it. Yet as Peter repeatedly challenged a liberal law professor over the issue of abortion legislation, Leslie listened. They began debating — and dating.

“During our courtship, Peter would challenge my ‘open-mindedness’ by giving me magazine articles about Catholicism and then asking me to discuss them,” Leslie remembered. “Eventually I had to admit that abortion wasn’t fair. From there, I was able to open my heart to Christ and the Catholic Church.”

Shown with their children, Peter and Leslie Wolfgang were awarded the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Pro-Life Award in October 2015 by Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Conn. Leslie was pregnant at the time with their seventh child.

By the time Peter returned from a summer internship in 1996, Leslie had enrolled in RCIA. “I proposed on Christmas Eve, she came into full communion with the Church the following Easter, and we were married in August,” Peter recounted.

Leslie’s conversion caused Peter to embrace his own Catholic faith more fully. He began reading the works of great Catholic writers and studying Church doctrine. Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae and St. John Paul II’s “theology of the body” enriched and strengthened their marriage.

To become more involved in the pro-life movement, Peter joined the Knights of Columbus, where he has served as grand knight, district deputy and state Catholic Concerns director. A member of Fathers Duggan-Zebris Council 13424 in Waterbury, he received the 2015 Father McGivney Award, the state council’s highest honor. In the same year, the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., bestowed the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Pro-Life Award on both Peter and Leslie.

Peter’s work with the Knights on important social issues was noticed by the board of the Family Institute of Connecticut, which hired Peter as public policy director in 2004 and named him executive director in 2007.

With Leslie’s work on FIC’s social media, it would seem the couple may suffer from “too much togetherness.” Yet they have grown in mutual respect and admiration for their professional skills. Earlier in their marriage, Peter stayed home with the children while Leslie was employed as a lawyer for the state government. They switched roles when Peter became full-time at FIC.

Peter calls his wife “amazingly intelligent” and talented in whatever she undertakes. Leslie said, “I am reminded of how great he is when we work together outside of the home.”

Their children are homeschooled according to a classical curriculum and participate in a vibrant Catholic homeschooling organization. Realizing one day her family had a “crisis of scheduling,” Leslie decided they should make “getting to Sunday Mass well” a priority. “We were going to get the clothes ready, baths done, hair brushed and ready for Mass, including confessions, if it took us all week,” she said. With time, the Wolfgangs found that centering on the Mass helped other family concerns fall into place and restored order and peace to their home.

They integrate other Catholic traditions as well. The family rosary, which Leslie once viewed as “the biggest chore,” she now sees as “the best use of our time together.” The Wolfgangs make pilgrimages to shrines, visit the crèche exhibit at the Knights of Columbus Museum each Christmastime, and regularly discuss the Catholic faith and its application to political and cultural issues around the dinner table.

Sharing the faith with their children gives the Wolfgangs meaning and purpose.  “Our goal is to be together in heaven forever, and so to that end passing along the gift of faith and knowledge about Catholicism is our biggest priority,” Peter said.

Peter noted how his family life and his professional life support and reinforce each other. “Catholics can convert any profession into a prayer offered up to God if we do our work well. But it is a special blessing to serve him on the front lines of the culture war,” he said. “Our faith life at home strengthens me to do my work, and my work in the public arena encourages me to work harder at modeling the faith at home. I cannot be a credible witness for our faith if I am not living it at home.”

Gerald Korson is a veteran Catholic journalist who writes from Indiana.